Chapter 4 From Methodenstreit to the “Science Wars” – an Overview on Methodological Disputes between the Natural, Social, and Cultural Sciences

In: Formal and Informal Methods in Philosophy
Friedrich Stadler
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The so-called classical “Methodenstreit,” which originated in economics with Carl Menger and Gustav Schmoller in 1883 was followed by several variants beginning with the historical sciences in the last decade of the 19th century. One highly contested question in terms of methodology was the existence, role and function of laws in history and the cultural sciences as necessary elements of any possible historical (causal) explanation – an alternative methodology to an exclusively intuitive understanding (Verstehen) claimed by the proponents of German historicism (Historismus) and the humanities (Geisteswissenschaften).

Throughout further methodological debates during the last century we can see the recurrence of similar topics in the sciences as well as in the philosophy of science in different contexts without any consensus about the basic dispute. The following article is an attempt to reconstruct this ongoing debate in more detail and to provide a first overview of the several variants of Methodenstreit with the continuous central question, whether there is one unified science as a regulative conception covering humanities with one scientific method or not. To date, the research literature is dealing only with specific manifestations of this issue.

My argument is that the main issues recurring in the history and philosophy of science of the 20th century are manifestations of central, still unresolved methodological and epistemological problems which can be investigated from a meta-theoretical as well as a contextual point of view.

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